Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oh, the things kids say that people say

Maybe this is only funny to us but we're trying to cross a busy street to get to a park this afternoon with the whole family and this car is driving unpredictably so Cath goes "Drive, you idiot," which is what you say in that situation. J won't let it go: "Why did Mommy say 'Drive, you idiot?'" over and over. Then she starts practicing it, softly, to herself: "Drive, you idiot. Drive, you idiot."

In other news, we're trying to think of fun things to do on a Saturday in Chicago that's coming up soon. We'll be without kids. I know things I like to do there, but a part of me doesn't want to do the same old things. I know, for example, that I don't want to see the Field Museum's collection of Northwest Coast Indian culture again. For some museums, 20 visits is enough.

So I'm open to suggestions for what else is there to do in Chicago.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

To Hammond and Back Again

I took this picture at the US District Court in Hammond this weekend. I like it because it looks like a corner chapel in some kind of modern cathedral, but it's just a couple of water fountains and elevator doors. It's peaceful.

Taking this picture may have been the most peaceful part of the weekend. I drove one of the "short buses" there with eight students and a couple of other club sponsors for the regional mock trial competition. It's a long story, and it was a long, intense day. It was much more intense than the speech competitions I've been to--kids are just in each other's faces all day long. It's totally nuts. In a way, I'm just now realizing how cool it was, even though we ended up middle of the pack and got spanked in one round. Hey, it's our first year ever and we were going up against teams that had competed together for three years in some cases.

We'll be back.

The courthouse itself was just gorgeous--a huge, clean, blocky modernist dream that rose from the rubble of surrounding Hammond like the monolith at the beginning of 2001. I'm serious. This building would be worthy of dwell magazine if only people lived there.

Driving the little bus was fun, too.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Touche, or however you spell that.

I only really like the speed skating and the xc skiing, oh and the luge, but I end up watching whatever olympic sports are on at the moment: ski jumping, downhill, biathlon, whatever. So I'm watching tonight and see Picabo Street goes off on US skier Julie Mancuso for some vague attitude problems, suggesting that she doesn't have what it takes to succeed at the Olymbics--she actually says "Lose the tiara" at one point. So what happens? Mancuso skis down the hill and wins gold in the GS. In your face, Picabo. That's pretty funny.

And maybe everyone has heard about this by now, but I can't stop watching this video segment from CBS News about an autistic high school senior who has been the manager of his school's basketball team but gets to join the team for the last game of the year. Coach puts the kid in for the last two minutes of the game--he scores 20 points. 6-7 from the 3pt line. Kids rush the floor. Stories like this make me cry.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Out of body experience

Fascinating feeling during today's IU game against Illinois . . . I couldn't have cared less. I watched, the whole thing, even, but it felt like it was just a movie about a basketball game for some reason. I've been a fan my whole life, and we have had bad seasons, worse seasons even, but I've never felt this disembodied during a game. I think it's because the coach and most of our good players won't be back--it's hard to root for Robert Vaden, for example, when he has already delcared his intention to leave the team. I don't feel like he's playing for us any more, and he didn't, really, hitting like 1-10 from three.

A little more fun was going to the game on Friday. The kidz loved the action and the popcorn, but got pooped before the first quarter was done in the varsity game. At the beginning of the game, HHS went out and stood right in the center of the home team's floor and did this cool rallying cry. It was pretty cheeky.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Beatles: Conclusions

Now I know more about the Beatles than you do. Oh wait . . yep, I just forgot half of what I read in that book, so now we’re about even. But yeah, I finished it, believe it or not. Took me what, like five weeks? Could have been faster, but I have this job I have to do during the day most times.

The entire story is pretty great, but the last 50 pages or so are riveting. By that point, they’re on the verge of breaking up after the agonizing experience of recording Let it Be and the white album. I put a lot of the blame on John and Yoko for this. They’re both into H by this point, and are just really into themselves. For all of John’s complaints that Paul loved to pander to the public and the media, he comes across as just as guilty, churning out media stunt after stunt to promote his wife’s art and their collaboratively made art crap.

So with 50 pages to go I’m sitting there wondering how they are going to manage to put together Abbey Road after their two prior albums, Let it Be and the white album had so much sub-par music on them, and when they hate to be in the studio or near each other. The book doesn’t do justice to the Abbey Road sessions, for they’re end up being kind of neat end to the story. Basically, they find that the joy of playing together somehow helps them forget about all the crap they had going on in their personal lives. They bring George Martin back. It’s like old times in some ways. So, even with Yoko directing their recording from a bed she had installed in the studio, they manage to put together something brilliant. Even George gets his day with some of his best work.

And in the end . . . here are some conclusions:
  1. I appreciate John the artist much more than I used to. You get the feeling that even he didn’t fully understand his talent, and he needed Paul to help make it work, but his music is probably the best, I have to admit.

  2. I hate who John was to his family, his band mates, his friends, to strangers, and to himself. He may be one of the most un-likeable famous rockers I’ve ever read an 800 page book about.

  3. Paul is the reason they ever got anywhere. On his own, he would have found fame. You can’t say that about any of the others.

  4. They ripped off a lot more people than I realized. In more ways than I realized, these fellas were just really good at making derivative versions of the music they heard and loved, much of it coming from black America.

  5. Their best haircuts were in the late 60’s. I wish like the devil I could grow a beard like Paul’s.

  6. After they did the first Ed Sullivan Show, they stopped being funny. I don’t know why, but the beginning of their career, when they were poor and struggling, their wit seemed to be just really vital to who they were. After they started touring, they all get kind of cranky, caught up in the womanizing and the reefer and the LSD and the whatnot.

  7. In the end, the love you take is equal to the booty you shake. I made that one up myself.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So here's why people don't send telegrams

It's because they cost almost $50 a pop. At least at the site I found with a quick Google, a hand-delivered (and that's they way you'd want it to be) telegram is around $43 plus .89 cents a word.

You have to wonder how they actually have those delivered. I mean, surely they don't have offices in more than a few cities across the country. If I had a telegram delivered to someone, say, in Fort Wayne, I wonder if they would just open up the Fort Wayne phone book, make a long distace call to the first pizza delivery place listed and say "are you delivering any pizzas near the corner of State and Main? You are? How'd you like to make a quick $5?"

Personally, I'd love to deliver telegrams. How awesome would that be? I could wear a fedora and dress like I was all 1940's and slick my hair back with a nice part and go to peoples' homes and businesses and say "Telegram!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

People should still send telegrams.

The Sunday Times had this funny piece on “famous” telegrams over the years, and this one made me laugh.  Apparently, a journalist once sent a telegram to Cary Grant’s people asking him his age, and it read:

“How old Cary Grant?”

In reply, Grant sent this telegram:

“Old Cary Grant fine.  How you?”

Man, jokes like this crack me up.  I had to call my dad and tell him because I inherited a gene that made me know he would like it too, and he did laugh too.  You’ve got to love hearing your dad laugh long and genuinely.    

It was kind of fun.

So people were actually nice to my draft memoir last night.  A few sharp people pointed out the parts of it that are weak, but several also said that it was pretty.  Come to think of it, maybe they were saying that it was “pretty weak.”  I don’t quite remember.  

The fun part is that they spent over an hour talking about, yes, ME.  One rule is that the author is not allowed to speak at all, so that made it this cool fly on the wall experience.  Sarah said that I looked like I was in agony.  Some people thought it meant that I didn’t like being a father.  One guy said that references to some fairly well known movies and a couple of books were off-putting because he didn’t get them.  “Then read more,” I thought.

Overall, though, people were pretty nice to it.  Maybe nicer than they had to be, sure, but it was an encouraging experience.  

Monday, February 13, 2006

Waiting for the shoe to drop

So this is my week to get my brief "memoir" critiqued in my writin' class. The class is Tuesday night and I had to have my draft posted to the class web page by last night. Lots of mixed emotions swirling about on this . . . on the one hand, the piece I put together is terrible and sitting through a critique of it will be murder. On the other hand, for that half hour of class Tuesday night, it will be all about ME. That part I like ok.

I might overstep how awful the piece is, but not by much. Compared to the other work that we've read so far, it's competitive. On an absolute scale, however, no one will be offering me any advances. It's not fun when you're someone who thinks they have some sense of what good writing is but then find out how that is an entirely different faculty than writing something good yourself. You sit back, read from the top, and think "who wrote this?"

There is a small part of me that secretly hopes my class will be fooled into thinking that my piece is good. Extra credit if someone uses the word "lyrical" to describe it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Maybe I'm one of the last people to hear about Jenny Lewis, but that's okay. I finally came around when I saw this video of her new single "Rise up with Feist" or something like that. Funny Loretta Lynne looke she pulls off. The album is above average so far, but I reserve the right to say it's even better as I get to know it. Right now, I just keep playing the single over and over along with my trusty guitar. In fact, it's really the first couple of lines I love, including the great lyric: "It's like trying to clean the ocean/ what do you think you can drain it?"

Fun stuff. Reminds me of Edith Frost. The new Cat Power is really getting to me, too.

I took a walk in the falling snow with my dog tonight, too. That's always good to do if you are lucky to have both handy, a dog and snow. Even better if you find a stick.

Friday, February 10, 2006

New rankings out

Sorry about the continued Beatles talk.  I only have 200 pages to go in the book, and then I’ll be over them for awhile maybe.

But anyway, until last night, my favorite Beatles records went like this:

  1. Abbey Road

  2. Rubber Soul

  3. Revolver

However, after reading about this era and then a close listen, the order is now:

  1. Abbey Road

  2. Revolver

  3. Rubber Soul

The recurring motif is still how John is such a complete arse to people, but his song-writing is waking up, too.  He comes across as a terribly lonely man, in a marriage that he doesn’t enjoy, and a little jealous of Paul’s freedom and, well, talent.  

It’s funny how when I’m reading a book that book becomes this lens for how I take in the world.  When I was doing Gatsby last semester, I was seeing “Gatsby-figures” everywhere I looked.  “He is such a Gatsby,” I would say to myself, or sometimes Cath.  Or: “Total Daisy.”

This is happening somewhat with the Beatles bio.  Mainly, I’m seeing the upcoming Belle & Sebastian tour as my equivalent to the first Beatles tour of the US.  Sure, they’ve been here a few times before and I’ve seen them once before, but they’re charging lots for tickets now, and have a decent headlining act and, according to Tito, are even being advertised in Best Buy circulars.  I don’t see them breaking big, but at least I can pretend that there is some kind of “mania” attached to a band I like for once.

What is so funny about the Beatles tours to me is that these guys played, like, 30 minutes, tops.  That was their set.  Kids would scream, no one could hear them play, and then they’d be done.  So, even people who can claim to have seen the Beatles can only claim to have experienced 30 minutes more of a brush with greatness than any of us can.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bring it on!

I am not anywhere near a hawk when it comes to Middle East politics, but when I heard that an Iranian newspaper is holding a contest to come up with cartoons about the Holocaust, my first thought was "Bring. It."

Not because there is anything remotely funny about the Holocaust, of course. It's more the thought of the more radical imams all over Iran putting pen to paper to make comic strips that gets me. This could be the first funny thing that has happened in international relations since "you forgot Poland!!"

Imagine some of the early drafts that contestants come up with; I can see them putting a cartoon together, sitting back to read it, and saying to themselves "no, that's just not funny."

Maybe big things could come of this--maybe people all over Iran trying to write a winning cartoon will realize "hey, there's really nothing at all funny about the Holocaust. That was some seriously tragic stuff they went through." Maybe democracy isn't the road to peace in the Middle East; it's comedy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Writing Class: tonight's box score

This stat line is a little better than it was last week:

Number of times I had a thought but did not blurt it out like a big blow-hard: 3

However, this stat hurt me tonight:

Number of times I blurted something out like a big blow-hard but didn't have any thought to go with it: 2

That's kind of like my class discussion assist/turnover ratio. Still needs some work.

One of those records

I wonder what percentage of all the dancing that happens in the world happens when people are alone and not out in clubs or bars but in their own livingrooms and bedrooms and kitchens and they are just listening to their favorite song of that exact moment. I know a lot is done in clubs by club kids and party people, but I think a lot is done by just people, in the daytime, listening to their home stereos.

It's the new Belle & Sebastian that's making me wonder this. It's just so . . . good.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Buddha Machine is Here

My Buddha Machine has arrived. It's the latest thing, so late and great that I'm not yet sure why I bought it, though I'm sure that will become clear to me in good time. Have you ever bought anything off the internet because you read a thing or two about that thing somewhere and it kind of sounded cool and it wasn't all that expensive and you just thought "why not?" I have.

The Buddha Machine is like a poor man's ambient iPod, this lil square box of plastic that plays one of nine different loops of ambient weirdness over and over until you turn it off or the batteries run out. Apparently, it achieves it's sublime coolness because each unit has its own teeny bodhisattva seated right inside. You can see him in the technical diagram, above.

I think what made me buy it/him was when I read in two different places that "Brian Eno bought eight of these." Why that would make me want to do anything, I'm not sure, but it did. Still, I like my little bodhisattva. He needs a name, though.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Kids and Trainhoppers

Fun night out tonight for kids and parents alike . . went to the lobby of the Indiana Theater to see the CD release party for The Legendary Trainhoppers. As you can see in the snap above, they're a sharp, backward-glancing Americana rock 'n' roll band. They've got lots of people excited here because they're made up of the best and brightest of various bands in the local scene.

One reason this was such a great show is that they actually had a 6:45 set that let kids in free because one of the guys is a kindergarten teacher and he wanted his class to come. So C and I loaded our kids up, even tho B had been pukin' a lot today, and headed downtown. What a cool experience to see so many young, happenin' parents with their kids, all enjoying good original alt-country music. And what an obvious, under-exploited idea: early music shows for the young parents who want to stay engaged with the scene but don't want to have to pay for a baby sitter. It was as much fun for the chilluns, anyway.

Most of the show was electrified, but for the last song they unplugged and stepped into the crowd--probably the highlight of the show for me, the way music was supposed to be heard. Why'd Dylan have to go electric, anyway? He ruined everything, the traitor.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Beatles update

Let me summarize the first 450 pages of the new Beatles biography:

John Lennon was a real poo-poo head.

There is more to it than that, and it's a fun read, but I'm surprised that I'm surprised at what a complete tool he can be, over and over. First, he hates women, hiding from his young wife and son as much as possible; however, he hates them only a little less than he hates himself, I think. All the drinking and the anger and what-not--I don't think he sounds like a very happy fellow.

A big part of me thinks that he only got to be in the band because he was a couple of years older than Paul and George and they looked up to him. They were kids and he was this older, cool, tough guy who gave them the time of day. He needed them because they actually knew how to play their instruments.

Sure, he's a genius blah blah blah, and he had a good wit, but, well, we'll see. I'll finish the book before I draw any more conclusions. Maybe a more sympathetic portrait will come out.

Participation points

I am debating whether I should go on some kind of silent strike at my next class over at IPFW.  I’m in this pretty good writing class right now devoted to creative non-fiction, and, so far, I just won’t shut up in it.  Maybe it’s because during my day job I try not to talk too much, thinking it’s a sign of lazy teacher planning.  During this class, then, when the role is reversed and I’m actually expected to contribute, I feel rather liberated.

But I think I’m going overboard.  I don’t know how I know this, and I don’t think the other students hate me too much—most of them laugh (with me, I think), but still, I’m thinking about a strike, or at least making sure that I say something nice about a fellow student’s paper before I start saying what’s wrong with it.  That would be a good start.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Monkeysquirrel Revokes Support of Mike Davis

I am just realizing, fifteen minutes before we play Northwestern, that the Mike Davis era of IU basketball has almost sapped my last bit of enthusiasm for the game. Used to be that a game was a big deal for me, I'd look forward to it for a couple of days, plan my evening around it, and enjoy watching a team win or lose playing its own style of basketball, a definable style, and one that I could feel proud of.

Now, even when they're winning, I'm usually bored. Our offense is so boring to watch, and out defense is not even really defense, and I dunno. I'm tired of it all.

Oh, I'm still going to watch tonight, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that if Mike Davis's tenure at IU comes down to a vote and it's close and there is some wacky tie breaker where they have to call me at home and ask me whether he stays or goes, I might say "goes."